Dogs can bring a lot of joy into our lives, even images of a dog. In fact, studies suggest that dogs can actually help people be happier, feel less stress, and live longer, too. So it’s no surprise that many people value the companionship of their canine chums and want to provide the very best lives for them.
But have you ever wondered what would happen to your furry friend if you weren’t around? While many people assume that they will outlive their pets, life is unpredictable and accidents can happen, potentially leaving your dog without adequate care. Fortunately, with the help of a guardianship attorney, you can ensure that your pet is looked after in any eventuality.
Pet Guardianship vs Pet Ownership
Before we look into the different options available to you in terms of ensuring that your dog is looked after and cared for after your passing, it’s important to understand the difference between pet ownership and pet guardianship.
From a legal perspective, the term “ownership” refers to possession of the property, like a house or a car. The term “guardianship”, meanwhile, is used when a person is legally responsible for the care or protection of something or someone else.
So, you may assume that guardianship is the right word to use when talking about pets. However, in strictly legal terms, the word can only be used in reference to people, as animals are classed as property, just like a TV or a bookcase.
Protests and debates are ongoing to potentially change this definition, but for now, it leads to a gray area around animal rights and caring for pets as part of estate planning, and it’s very important to do things correctly if you want your pet to be provided for.
What Happens to My Pet After I Die
So, how does this all affect your pet in the event that you pass on and leave them behind? Well, there are a few possible scenarios that can play out in this situation, and it all depends on what sort of planning and preparation you, the owner, have done beforehand.
- If you have a will in place with clear directives and instructions regarding your pet, those instructions should be followed and the pet will be passed into the hands of a named guardian in your will.
- You may also choose to set up a pet trust, in which case your pet will be given to the trustee or caretaker.
- If you have a will without any mention of pet care, the pet may be passed to your residuary beneficiary – the person who receives whatever is left of your property and estate after other beneficiaries have received their inheritance.
- Or, if you don’t have a will at all, then your pet (along with other property) will come under the control of your state’s probate laws, with a court-appointed executor being responsible for deciding what happens next. This can lead to the pet ending up in a shelter or passed on to a friend or family member.
What Are The Options of Securing Your Pet’s Future
So, what can you do if you want to ensure that your pet is safe and has the best possible life if you’re not around to look after them? Well, here are a few possible options you can explore:
Set Up a Pet Trust
With your estate planning attorney, you can set up a pet trust to protect your furry friend after you’re gone. This involves picking someone who will be your pet’s guardian and will be legally obligated to look after the pet if you die.
You’ll also create a written document with all necessary instructions for how to look after the pet, as well as an amount of money that is deemed sufficient to care for the animal for the rest of its life.
Include Your Pet In Your Will or Trust
You can also choose to include your pet in your will. Again, this is something to negotiate with your attorney, and it’s quite a simple and safe way to look after your pet.
You can include them in your will and designate a friend or family member to receive the pet and look after it after you die. You can also include some money to look after the animal.
This is a lot like a pet trust, except the caregiver won’t be legally obligated to care for the pet and you don’t legally have to leave them any money, either.
Choose a Guardian For Your Pet and Leave Instructions For Them
Another option is to pick a guardian to look after your dog and write some clear instructions to tell them how to look after the animal when you’re gone.
This is a simple method, but you need to be sure that you find someone you can truly rely on to act as the guardian. Otherwise, when you die, there may be no legal protections in place for your furry friend.